In a moment….our lives can change. In an instant.

Safety is an illusion.

I work as a nurse in an intensive care unit. Last week a health care worker drew blood on an HIV positive patient and then accidentally stuck herself with the dirty needle. A life-changing moment, a life-changing instant.

I’ve thought before that I wished life had the same “undo” button that exists on my word processor, my email program. I wish I had an undo button that I could keep in my pocket. How would life be different if we carried undo buttons? I know that health care worker so wished she had access to an undo button. That she could have rolled back time to the instant before.

I was supposed to also draw blood on that same patient later that day. It made me feel vulnerable…I’ve stuck myself with dirty needles already twice this year. I’m unlucky with needles. Another nurse I worked with, who had young children at home, drew the blood instead of me. She said she had no fear, even after the incident that same day with our colleague. She felt my discomfort might make me more likely to have an accident, so felt she was the better person to draw the blood. I was ashamed I wasn’t more courageous. She was my hero that day. I was weak, she was strong.

But I used to be the fearless one.

I don’t want to blame cancer, but my cancer experience has made me feel more vulnerable. The bad thing doesn’t always happen to someone else, sometimes the bad thing happens to you. The unexpected thing. The thing you never would have predicted.

Over the years I’ve drawn lots of blood….many times in an inner city ICU. Many of our patients were IV drug abusers. They hadn’t been tested for HIV, but I’m sure some would have tested positive. But before cancer I drew their blood all of the time without hesitation, even those with a pending HIV test (years ago I even stuck myself with the dirty needle of a patient with an HIV test pending..his test later came back negative).

But before cancer I felt safe. I didn’t feel as vulnerable.

After cancer, though, I know all bets are off. I vividly remember when I first learned I had cancer. My own life-changing moment.

I know now my future can change….in an instant. Anyone’s can.